What’s That Smell

This is the text of the first message I spoke from the pulpit after attending Licensed Local Pastor School in July. I’ve explained to a few people one specific conversation which set me on this course. That conversation was not the only factor, though. The biggest factor in this was what I believed and still believe was strong direction from God to do so.

I knew it would not be an easy course for 3 reasons:

  1. The last time I was in school (aside from one college chemistry class 25 years ago) was 40 years ago. This really wasn’t an issue at all as I discovered in the prerequisite work that I love learning. The only reason I couldn’t enjoy it when I was a kid was because I didn’t know how to be a kid.
  2. Differences in my interpretation of the Bible from what I expected the teachers would believe. Thankfully, we were all in agreement on the biggest issue, that of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
  3. Then, of course, there was my “weird wiring” to contend with. Black and white thinking, overthinking, taking myself too seriously, being too serious in general were all areas which I knew going in might be more problematic than any variances in theology. And they were.

Despite these things, my days in the school were highly educational. Some of the lessons I learned were not in their teaching plans; of that I’m sure. But I learned both what they intended and other things perhaps not intentional from both the teachers and students.

One of the Bible studies several students selected for their practice Bible study was the life of Abraham, particularly the initiation of his journey to the Promised Land. It was crazy how easy it was to liken Abram’s journey to the journey we students experienced stepping out of our life patterns (some of us even our life path, just as Abram did), to follow the direction of God.

It was not just a learning experience, though—it was a deeply rewarding experience. The closest thing I can compare it to is a Walk to Emmaus weekend except this was 10 days rather than 3. The Presence of God was tangible.

LLPSOn July 25, I graduated with the rest of my class. The license itself can take up to two months to be issued, and I wait now to see if that is how the path will continue for me or if it will take a turn in another direction. In either case, I don’t doubt it will be exciting and a little scary. The last words of the New Testament Scripture cited below were “Find out what pleases the Lord.” By attending Licensed Local Pastor School, I believe I followed that directive.

Now, what is that smell? Smelly Things.jpg

Isaiah 65:1-5 ““I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—
a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick;
who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of impure meat;
who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.”

Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-10 “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.”

If you were to think about smells, both good and bad, you could probably come up with a good list for both. Bad would undoubtedly include things like skunks, rotting things, and poop. Good things would consist of flowers, baking cookies, and men’s perfume (if you are a man reading this, sorry, I call it perfume whether it’s for men or women—always have—Rod got used to it eventually).

I did a Google search on bad smells. A study conducted at a university in Melbourne resulted in a smell so overwhelmingly nasty that it led to a mass evacuation of the university. That was the horrendously malodorous aroma of a rotting durian fruit. durian fruit.jpgA pastor/mentor friend who had the dubious honor of hearing this message at each of the 3 churches where I shared it on Sunday told me today that the durian fruit is not the worst smell known to man. As a retired EMT, he is aware of something far worse.

What about the things God smells? In the OT verse above something smells bad to God; in the NT something pleasant.

In 2008 contemporary Christian singer Ray Boltz, singer/writer of “Thank You” and “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb”, left the Bible-based faith, his Christian ministry, and his wife and 4 children to pursue an alternate lifestyle. In 2014 Dan Haseltine, front man for Christian rock band Jars of Clay made statements on Twitter that he was leaving the faith he had previously espoused. These are two instances of headline-making lifestyle choices made by people in positions of Christian influence. Two over the course of at least a decade.

In 2019 in the past month alone, there have been two more well-publicized accounts of men in positions of Christian influence abandoning their faith because the weight of the world and its enticements and their own desire for “happiness” grew too heavy for them to bear. First, we learned of Josh Harris, author of Christian bestseller of the late 1990s “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” who a few weeks ago left his wife and family then a couple days later stated he no longer considers himself to be a Christian.

A week or so after that, contemporary Christian worship band Hillsong songwriter, Marty Sampson, renounced his Christian faith declaring Christianity is “just another religion” and “it’s not for me”.

What in the world is going on?

Pun is intended. It is a problem of the world and the soul-led mindset. These men all reached the conclusion that  happinesscould not be found with a Jesus mindset in this world, and they were not willing to wait for the next.

Throughout my faith-walk years, I’ve heard more than one pastor/teacher/evangelist state that happiness and joy are not synonyms. happiness is a state achieved through circumstance; joy is achieved through the blessing of God regardless of circumstance. That’s the direction I thought this message would take. However, my deeper investigation will not allow me to make this statement with 100% belief in its veracity.

becomingThe way to be truly happy is to be truly human, and the way to be truly human is to be truly godly.” This quote by Canadian-English theologian JI Packer does not mean to make yourself your own god as we’ll look at more fully later. It does mean to make yourself as much like Jesus, the One you follow, as you possibly can. It also nicely summarizes the contents of one of my favorite books “Becoming Who You Are” by Dutch Sheets.

Does the Bible tell us anywhere that we are to be “happy”? When I searched, I really didn’t expect to find anything. As expected, there were many more references to words with similar meaning to “happiness”. I found words/phrases such as “delight” and “desires of your heart” in Psalm 37:4; “joy” in Psalm 16:11 and Isaiah 12:3; “overjoyed” in 1 Peter 4:13; and “freedom from fear”, “grace”, “hope”, and “blessed” in many places.

But. . .

There were a few occurrences of “happy”.

The KJV Bible translates Psalm 144:15 as “happy is that people whose God is the Lord”.

2 Chronicles 9:7 reads as follows even in the NIV “How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!”

When I looked at the Orthodox Jewish Bible, I was unable to understand the translation; so, I consulted Strong’s Concordance #3107. The transliteration of the original word for both “happy” and “blessed” is makários.

In both Psalm 144:15 and 2 Chronicles 9:7 the people’s happiness results from a relationship with the Lord. All the men above would be called the current catchphrase of “Christian influencers” (try saying that phrase out loud—I don’t think I pronounced it correctly a single time in any of the 3 services on Sunday). As nearly as I can discern, influencer means “popular person”. These men, popular in their individual Christian circles, quite large ones, walked away from the faith at least partly because they were unable to find that elusive state of mind called happiness.

These are the words of John Cooper, lead singer of Christian rock band, Skillet on August 14: “More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once ‘faces’ of the faith are falling away.” The Bible speaks of this (AKA apostasy) in 1 Timothy 4:1.

Look again at Isaiah 65:2 “. . . people pursuing their own imaginations” and verse 5 “Such people are smoke in my (God’s) nostrils” If you reread verses 2-5 in Isaiah 65, it is clear Isaiah is talking about “sinful” people, not those of faith.

How does God look upon sin? Can he look upon sin?

On the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The scholars who wrote the MacArthur New Testament Commentary believe this to mean exactly what it sounds like: because Jesus was bearing all sin, both the overall sin brought into the world in the fall and the sin of every human being who ever lived or ever would live, God turned his back on him.

This seems to be confirmed by Habakkuk 1:13a which reads: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.”

Does this mean God is incapable of being in the presence of evil? That can’t be, because several times in the book of Job he had conversations with satan!

I like the explanation of Michael D Guinan, OFM, professor of Old Testament the gist of which states the reason for Jesus’ cry of abandonment on the cross was to fulfil the prophecy in Psalm 22. More than that, though, with the evil all around him in his humanity at that moment he could not feel God’s presence. Remember how he wept at the tomb of Lazarus even though he knew he would be restoring his life? Jesus on the cross, utterly sinless, bore the sin of the world in his soul, but I don’t believe God turned his back on him.

So, if God did not turn his back, how did He feel about all that sin in one place at one pivotal moment in history?

Going back once again to Isaiah 65:5 the smell of evil in God’s nostrils is bad. It is truly stinky. This is just my opinion, but I suspect it smells like something dead. That was confirmed today in my conversation with my pastor and his wise and informed statement as to what is really the worst smell known to man. Verse 2 of Isaiah 65 tells us the people generating this foul aroma were “pursuing their own imaginations.” Is this not what anyone who walks away from a relationship with God is doing? Hear what the people say in the first part of verse 5: “‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!” If one is too sacred for God, does that not mean they have, in fact, made themselves God?

imagination.jpgAnd therein lies the problem. Our imaginations (thoughts) get us into so much trouble. If you were to look up online any of the individuals cited above, you would find their difficulties started in their minds. Every time. James 1:14-15 “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” In the original edition of my book Fearless in Euroclydon, there is a chapter devoted to “The D Word”. In its rewrite, currently in progress, there will be two dealing with two different kinds of death. It should be our prayer that anyone who makes a deliberate decision to walk away will return to Almighty God before their sin gives birth to death.

Brothers and sisters, it is imperative that we “cast down every imagination, and every high thing (idol) that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV)

Do you really want to be the thing of which others ask “Ewww. . .! What’s that smell?”

On the other hand. . .

If we learn so much about Jesus and his love that we discover how to love in the same way, we become the person that JI Packer described as “truly godly”; and the Bible calls a “fragrant sacrifice. . . “ Some other translations of these words: “Sweet-smelling savour” (KJV), “aroma of adoration, sweet healing fragrance” (TPT)

Then when others ask the question of us: “What’s that amazing smell?” we will know we are on the right track to fulfilling the great commission: making disciples of all nations.

Father, I ask that you remove from our souls (hearts and minds) the smell of sin and death that so permeates the world in which we live. Help us to have open spiritual ears to the prompting of your Holy Spirit so that we will hear, understand, and obey thereby having words that are a sweet, sweet sound in your ears and lives that are a sweet, sweet savour in your nostrils. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

PS Concerning that new (to me) word “influencers”, I’m in the process of reviewing a book for Barbour Publishing called Obedience Over Hustle by Malinda Fuller. hustleShe writes of influencers frequently along with giving the word “hustle” the more traditional meaning rather than the one I am most familiar with which is cheating at pool. I should have a better understanding of both words and will post my review as a blog here first. I hope you come back to check it out. God bless you. JLM & JLY (think about it. . . )

What is My Purpose!

What is My Purpose?

From July 14 through July 25, 19 students of ages between 21 and 64 listened, talked, participated, wrote, conferenced, laughed, cried, argued, and probably a couple of other verbs the variety of methods used to learn the subject matter the instructors were trying to teach.

Why?

Not too long after Rod died, God revealed that there were individuals who had spent the decades of their earthly lives on a church pew without understanding the most important reasons why.

How could they be helped?

Who would help them?

So began the journey to Licensed Local Pastor School.

Was every one of those 19 people there because they felt a similar, strong directive from God to be there?

Did everyone know the journey might be in vain—there was a chance licensing to pastor a small church, the chief reason for enrolling in the school, would not be the end result?

How many of them started with the initial mark against them of a faith journey thus far walked closely with and wholly trusting in Jesus alone that was different from that expected by the school?

Were any of them “different/weirdly wired” in the way they thought?

What did they each learn? Did they further their education in things for which they already had an elementary knowledge?

This would include the 9 spiritual disciplines:

  1. Prayer
  2. Worship
  3. Fasting
  4. Scripture (Bible reading)
  5. Study (Bible with supplementary resources)
  6. Stewardship (tithing—not just money but talent)
  7. Solitude
  8. Fellowship
  9. Service

Did they learn that the 9 spiritual disciplines don’t just “happen” to a believer; rather they should be “intentional” acts on the part of the believer? Most of these intentional acts can and should be practiced frequently. Some are easier than others, and some will need constant vigilance and reinforcement to be fully engaged.

Did they befriend those with whom they might not ever have otherwise crossed paths? The love of Jesus was clearly and deeply experienced both through other people and through the work of Holy Spirit when human frailty raged within and without. Did they feel that? True, faith isn’t based on feelings, but God gave us feelings.

Did they learn about communication? When one speaks, it is not the words alone which are important; indeed, they are of minimal importance. The tone with which the words are spoken bears more weight, and some would say body language is of the utmost importance! Body language is difficult to alter (for reasons fully addressed in previous posts and implied in this one). Learning to speak with a tone which conveys kindness, encouragement, and the love of Jesus is an achievable goal. Although this is not one of the spiritual disciplines, in this writer’s case, it will be made so.

On the original draft of this blog, the word “I” appeared more than 40 times with other words such as “my” not even counted but present. Since not using personal pronouns is grammatically unwieldy (see above reference to “this writer”), the rest will include the to-be-avoided-at-all-costs pronouns.

The previously mentioned end result? Mom, sister, son, daughter-in-law, 2 granddaughters and Pastor Dave all came to the ceremony Thursday evening to cheer encouragement as I received my graduation certificate.graduation

I was told more than once that the certificate was just a paper saying the classes had all been completed with a passing grade (one of them barely), but it would be strongly recommended a license not be issued to me at the time the other students receive theirs in one to two months. In part, this was due to belief differences which I admittedly didn’t wish to change, and I believe God would have been displeased with me if I had. The major hindrance was, of course, the ASC which many don’t even believe exists because of adroit masking practiced and nearly perfected over the past 50 years. It was the black and white thinking, however, which was my downfall.

God had me take the schooling for a reason. Of course, I tried to figure out just what that reason might be. Could it be that it was to encourage one of the other students in some way? That happened, so possibly that was the correct answer. Did one of the other students need to see a fellow student “on the edge” most of the time and “over the edge” a couple times, but by the grace of God getting back up every single time? That happened, too.

It is about God. It’s not about me. It’s really not even about other people, although some would disagree.

He told me long ago my purpose in life is to glorify him (confirmed in Isaiah 43:7), a fait accompli in my own unique way with regard to Licensed Local Pastor School. I am, as always, grateful to him for his greatly needed assistance.

Now waiting patiently for his next direction, I will continue to learn about the love with which he has loved me so that the love can be given back to him and to others.

Reader greatly loved by our Heavenly Father, God Almighty, may he bless you in all you say and do and in everything your hands touch. In the precious name of Jesus Christ.

Life on the Spectrum

 

 

puzzle brain

Famous Ones Currently Living With It

There are many. Here are a few that appear on just about every list I found:

Dan Akroyd – Actor/Comedian

Susan Boyle — Award-winning singer

Daryl Hannah — Actress

People Who are Famous Because of It

Temple Grandin — Author

Historical Figures Believed to Have Had it

Abraham Lincoln — President, The Great Emancipator

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) Writer

Albert Einstein — Scientist

Famous Christians with It

Brent Hansen – Christian radio host

Perry Stone — Pastor/Evangelist

Fictional Characters appearing to Have It

We are talking about Asperger’s, or as it is now known high-functioning Autism.

For years I have suspected I am an Aspie. There are too many signs of it starting with fairly significant bullying when I was a child. I won’t go into detail on that here–maybe in a future blog. There were some hygiene issues which at the time were attributed to laziness but which recently (just this past week) I was surprised to discover are fairly common among Aspies. One of them I still struggle with to this day, but I’ve learned a workaround for it which sorta works.

As an older child and an adult, I experienced social difficulties that cannot really be explained by simple shyness. I have no trouble speaking in front of large groups of people, providing I am speaking something I have previously written and carefully edited to remove comments others would consider inappropriate. And I can do okay talking to one person at a time. groupBut bring in a third person, and I will shut down – even with my sisters whom I am closer to than probably anyone in my life. I remember one time as a young adult being in a car with both of them on the way to see a movie and them both jabbering away, and feeling a little lost because I didn’t know how to enter in.

Over the years I’ve gotten fairly good at “appearing to fit in.” I suspect the people who know and love me the best are so used to my quirks they no longer even notice them.

But. . . there are some problems with pretending to be normal. towel

“Normal” and “perfect” are 2 words which need to be taken out of all dictionaries!

Which brings up another trait of Asperger’s. We have to have alone time, much more than the average person. This is not selfishness. It is alone time.pngnot self-centeredness as many well-meaning people believe. It is an aspect of the way our brains are wired. When I was married to Rod, a wonderful man who didn’t have too many difficulties with my oddities, and no problems whatsoever socializing, he understood this about me. He didn’t believe I had Asperger’s, although his daughter did. He simply thought I’d had too many bad things happen to me and it had altered my personality. It that were true, his personality would have been way more shut down than mine. It was not. He was larger than life and loved by everyone who met him.

In the past couple years I’ve become involved with some Christian online support groups. Even with them the communication issues are readily apparent. A previous group leader admonished me more than once about my black and white thinking. I believe my current leader gets amused by my unusual way of sharing my thoughts. When it’s my turn to speak I try to get everything out in one rush of words so they can move on to someone else. After I finish speaking I will always mute myself so they can’t hear anything else that might slip out inadvertently. I don’t know how to insert myself into a conversation between the other people in the group. This group is actually very good. The women in it are super kind; they each struggle with their own things and aren’t bothered by mine.

This is not the case with other groups I’ve been in, as alluded to previously. Often when I try to communicate I usually start speaking at the exact moment as someone else, and I will let my voice fade away and not be heard. Clearly the other person’s opinion is more important.

How does being an Aspie fit into my true identity as a daughter of the King?

Not easily.

But it isn’t impossible.

Asperger’s is not a disability. Asperger’s is not a birth defect although one is born with it. It is simply a difference in the way the brain is wired. This can be a good thing.

First the bad:

It is difficult to mingle socially with other women, including, or maybe especially, Christian women. A group of women from my church is currently on a lady’s retreat. I look at the pictures they post on Facebook and think how much fun it looks like they’re having. Then I remember how hard it would be to have a conversation with any two or more of them, and I quickly remember why maybe it wouldn’t be so fun. But. . . I am no longer envious as I would have been not all that many years ago. I can enjoy the fact that they’re enjoying themselves, and I can sit out on the back deck and watch the month-old kittens playing with each other and truly enjoy that as much as what the women appear to be doing.

One big thing about Aspies is they usually have one thing they are intensely interested in, and it consumes a great deal of their time and energy. For a lot of my life, my interests were not at all productive. For another part of my life, my interests were my children and my husband. For part of my life it was learning how to get my life back after colon cancer.

The good?

Right now, with Rod gone nearly 3 years, my principal focus truly, and perhaps for the first time in my life, is on Jesus and my relationship with Him. 

You, see He doesn’t care that my brain is wired weird. In fact, I think maybe He even likes it, especially jesus loves menow that I’m focused on Him. Black & white thinking, overthinking, talking to myself (or is it thinking out loud?. . . or . . . am I actually talking to Him when others think I’m talking to myself?) don’t bother Him at all. If the words I speak to Him don’t come out exactly the way I intended, do you think His feelings might get hurt? Of course not. For one thing, He is perfect and therefore, cannot get His feelings hurt. Then there’s that little thing about Him knowing what I’m thinking and feeling before I say it or even before I think it. No, my Aspie quirks doesn’t bother him a bit.

One more reason to love Him!  i love jesus

Another advantage: I have to pray really, really hard before I speak at such events as Walk to Emmaus, churches, and book signings; otherwise, who knows what might come out of this mouth? People are not as understanding as Jesus, and they have no way of knowing that what I’m saying is not always what I mean to say. Sometimes I’ve had the delightful experience, usually at Walk to Emmaus, of having God actually take over when I’m speaking. You can’t imagine what a blessing that is on so many levels.

Another one: Truly great friends. I didn’t have my first non-relative best friend until I was 48 years old! But she was wonderful! She had Alzheimer’s so she could not remember any of the crazy things I said. The other good friends I’ve had have also been exceptional people; they have to be! That includes my sisters. I know of many sets of sisters who aren’t friends at all—they’re more like enemies. My sisters and I have always loved and supported one another.

God puts the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). For His reasons, he decided to wire me up with Asperger’s, so he knew I’d need the exceptional sisters of Jessie Alice and Jamie Jean, born when I was 1 and 5 years old. I will always be grateful!

Diagnosed at last! One month ago, I received the diagnosis of Asperger’s (also known as high-functioning Austism) along with PTSD & BED from my counselor. By the way, both of those can result from Asperger’s and the social fall-out from weird wiring.

Look at this statement I just found on http://www.lifeonthespectrum.net/blog/?page_id=1001 and wow! this whole blog is FANTASTIC!

Some other great websites:

http://www.aspergerministry.org/

http://christianaspie.com/

“I am no longer a failed normal person. I am a successful aspie.” And I would add to this “loved by Jesus!”.